12:37pm PT by Tina Daunt, Erik Hayden
Three Bay Area Men Arrested for Widespread Piracy of Films and TV Shows
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced Friday that her office has filed criminal charges against three Bay Area brothers who allegedly operated websites on which people could watch pirated versions of popular television shows and films, including Fox Searchlight's Black Swan, Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I and Disney's Tangled.
Hop Hoang, 26, Tony Hoang, 23, and Huynh Hoang, 20, all were arraigned in Alameda Superior Court on conspiracy, receiving stolen property and grand theft charges. According to Harris, the three operated a website that allegedly allowed users of personal computers and handheld devices to stream more than 1,000 copyrighted movies and TV shows. Over 18 months, investigators say, the three made $150,000 by selling advertising. They are alleged to have generated traffic to their site through Google search ads.
“Digital piracy is theft. It is a serious crime that harms one of California’s most important economic engines – our entertainment industry,” Harris said. “This case sends a clear message that the California Department of Justice will investigate digital piracy and prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law.”
The trio could face five years in prison if convicted. One of the brothers, Hop Hoang, pled not guilty in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office told The Hollywood Reporter.
The MPAA had previously investigated the websites iphonetvshows.net and movieiphone.net, alleged to be criminally operated by the trio, and sent a cease-and-desist letter to Tony Hoang. Those two websites have since been taken down. The state office then began investigating a separate website, mediamp4.com, that the brothers allegedly operated.
“The MPAA deeply appreciates the leadership of Attorney General Harris and her office in helping to combat websites that illegally profit from the creative content produced by the men and women of the American movie and television community,” said MPAA chairman Chris Dodd. “There are now nearly 80 legal online services in the United States dedicated to providing movies and television shows to viewers. But to realize the enormous potential of these businesses and ensure an Internet that works for everyone, it is critical that government, content creators, the tech community and others work together to stop illegal rogue sites.”
The state has charged the men with a count of grand theft and conspiracy and four counts of receiving stolen property. They were arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday.
Michael P. Thorman at the law office of Bonjour Thorman Baray & Billingsley, which represents Hop Hoang, stated that he is currently reviewing the details of this case and offered THR no additional comment. Hop Hoang is scheduled to appear July 19 at Alameda County Superior Court.